Día de los Muertos is a two-day commemoration that has been celebrated in the Latinx community since ancient times in Mexico and Latin America. Every year on November 1 and 2, families and friends come together to celebrate and pay homage to the memories of their loved ones who have died. Although modern celebrations of Dia de los Muertos vary from place to place, the belief remains that on these days the dead and the living are together as one.
One of the most recognizable and significant aspects of Dia de los Muertos is the altar which consists of ofrendas (offerings) such as: marigold flowers (cempasuchil), candles, calaveras (sugar skulls), pan de muerto (a traditional pastry), food and drinks that the person who died particularly enjoyed, as well as photographs and personal items of the deceased. Traditionally, families and friends visit the cemetery to clean and decorate their loved one’s grave with ofrendas. The ofrendras are believed to encourage their loved one’s soul to visit the living as they hear their families/friends’ prayers, smell the scent of the marigold flowers and their favorite foods/drinks, and join in the celebration. As Dia de los Muertos approaches during the pandemic, there are a few alternative ways to celebrate and honor the memories of your loved ones who have died while practicing physical distancing and still realizing the significance of Dia de los Muertos:
- Creating an altar as a family in your home that includes the customary ofrenda items: Marigold flowers, pan de muerto, calaveras, candles, papel picado (garlands), personal items and photographs of the deceased and their favorite food and drinks
- Preparing traditional family recipes and favorite foods of the loved one with members of your household
- Creating and decorating the altar with art pieces such as papel picado (garland) and/or calavera (skull) art coloring pages
- Playing music in your home that your loved one enjoyed
- Participating in a virtual Dia de los Muertos Celebration
- Writing a card to your loved one and placing it in the ofrenda (altar)
As you celebrate and honor the memory of your loved one in meaningful, creative, and safe ways on Dia de los Muertos during COVID-19, remember to reach out to others for the support you need.
For more information on grief in Adults and Children/Teens, visit our grief pages and for grief support or resources, give us a call at (310) 473-1511.
Brenda Hernandez, MA, MFT is the Spanish Satellite Program Coordinator at OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center in Los Angeles.
She serves as the first point of contact for callers seeking grief support services from OUR HOUSE. She also leads grief support groups in Spanish and is an advocate for underserved individuals in the Latino community.